Equality vs. Fairness

I don’t have any kids of my own yet, but I have worked in a daycare for more than three years now, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about kids, it’s that their absolute favorite phrase when things don’t go their way is “That’s not fair!” Whether it’s because Suzy got a different colored sticker or Connor got a couple of extra minutes on the computer or Drew got to be line leader twice in the span of two weeks, something always “isn’t fair.”  And when those kids see something that doesn’t seem fair, they are definitely not afraid to let me know about it. But what I’ve realized over these past few years is that more often than not, these “unfair” situations really aren’t that unfair – they’re just unequal. The kids have a hard time understanding the difference, and I’m pretty sure that’s because we don’t know the difference either. I honestly don’t know how long it’s been going on, but we’ve been trying to pound it into our kids’ heads for years that everybody is equal. But the truth is, we aren’t all equal. Not that any one person is born better than another, but we are all different, and to try to treat everyone as if they were the same as everyone else does a disservice to everybody. Are there certain situations where equality is needed across the board? Of course! But that doesn’t mean that we need to fight for straight up equality in every situation. Should men and women receive equal pay for doing the same job? Yes! Should men and women receive equal punishment for the same crime? Yes! Should men and women be equal in their responsibilities for raising a child? Well, maybe not. First, a caveat: I am most definitely not implying that men (or women) can slack off and let their partner take the brunt of the effort all the time. What I’m saying is that it won’t be equal. And you know what? It’s not the end of the world. Maybe mom is always the one who changes diapers and dad never does, but he takes out the trash and keeps the baby occupied so mom can get some rest later. It doesn’t need to be a split down the middle type of deal in order to be fair – in this or pretty much any other situation. 

I totally understand why we’ve been trying to push equality, because everybody should be treated equally, right? If everybody treated everyone the same, life would be so much better! I mean, how couldn’t it be? We just want everybody to be treated the same, no matter their color, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical condition, mental condition, financial status, or any other “determining factor” that we tend to separate people by. But then what are we? Faceless crowds being subjected to the needs of the common denominator while having their unique problems and issues left totally unaddressed. 

I mean, think about that for a second. What would life look like if men and women, adults and children, one religion and another, politicians and janitors – what if each one was actually treated exactly the same as the other? We all have different wants, different dreams, different ideas about who we are and what we deserve, so to look for equality in the midst of all of that just doesn’t make sense to me. So the next time you want to complain about your situation being unfair – whether the “blame” lies with the government, your family, your boss, or anyone else – take a step back and look at it from another angle. Make sure that this “unfairness” isn’t really just inequality. And once you’ve done that, realize that inequality isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Then, live your life a little less cynical and a little more happy. 

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